The problem with literature is, essentially
That a good poem looks a lot like a bad
(Even as a good doctor
Might wear the lab coat of a quack)
Good and bad poems share that same
Monochrome mess of letters
Strewn across the page
(Though, with The New Yorker, that’s a corker)
But, really, there is no way to tell
Except by reading.
Some poems have line breaks
As sensible as shoes
Still, that might be a modern poem
(Even as a hipster chef
Might wear the jacket of a hot-dog vendor)
And it could be one darling of a poem
But you can’t know for sure
Until you have read it
And by then,
Like swallowing a bad oyster,
It’s too late.
Unlike oysters, however,
You can return to that same poem
Decades later only to realize
That you — yes, you!
Are no longer the same
And that’s why we need
The problem with literature.